Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology vol:29 issue:7 pages:549-58
1. Of the melanocortin peptides, gamma(2)-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) has been attributed a cardiovascular effect, inducing an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Although still controversial, this effect, based on pharmacological blockade experiments, is supposed to be mediated through sympathetic activation. 2. The aims of the present study were to identify the N-terminal pro-opiomelanocortin (N-POMC) fragments and melanocortins that influence blood pressure and heart rate and to investigate the real-time changes in baroreflex sensitivity and in sympathetic and vagal modulation underlying cardiovascular effects in conscious rats without the use of pharmacological blockade. 3. Intracerebroventricular administration of different melanocortins and N-POMC induced a long-lasting dose- dependent pressor response from 1 nmol onwards, with only a small initial bradycardic response with the highest dose. 4. Coinciding with this pressor response, an elicitation of the low-frequency (LF) component was observed in spectral analysis of both blood pressure variability (BPV) and heart rate variability (HRV), followed by the high-frequency (HF) component in at least BPV. Baroreflex sensitivity remained unchanged. 5. After intravenous administration, gamma(2)-MSH produced a short-lasting dose-dependent pressor and cardioaccelerator response with very rapid onset with concentrations from 1 nmol onwards. 6. Continuous infusion of gamma(2)-MSH depressed baroreflex sensitivity and simultaneously increased both components of BPV, with a radical reduction of the LF component and a preserved vagal HF component in HRV. 7. Of all the intravenously administered melanocortins, only gamma(2)-MSH was active. The central effect is likely to depend on an increase of (alpha-)sympathetic outflow. 8. For the peripheral effect, gamma(2)-MSH appeared to act as a baroreceptor reflex-blocking agent, being compatible with a role in the acute stress response.